March Madness (and How to Write a Poem)

I’ve recently been posting on Tuesdays about my experiences reading WRITING PICTURE BOOKS by Ann Whitford Paul, but today I’m going to take a break from picture book thoughts to focus on the other genre I dabble in: childrens’ poetry.

Madness2013BlackBlueThis week, I’m participating in the March Madness poetry tournament over at Think Kid, Think. Sixty-four writers, each assigned a word, go head-to-head (pen-to-pen?) and compete for votes — YOUR votes. The word assignments for the first flight of the first round were released last night, and range from the rather mundane ‘potion’ and ‘mesh,’ to fun-but-challenging ‘abscond’ and ‘herculean,’ to the completely, mind-bogglingly, stupefyingly challenging ‘anthropomorphization.’ My word will be assigned Tuesday night, with my poem due (and voting to start) on Thursday morning.

I’ve been so focused on other things lately that this challenge has been a fun way to get back into writing some shorter pieces, and has also got me thinking about my process. Some of my poems come to me based on a phrase that I’ll hear — maybe something one of my kids will say, or something I say to them, or a phrase from a book we’re reading. Other times (not as often) I’ll think of a character I want to write about, or a joke I want to tell, and will come at the poem that way. But it can be a haphazard process. I’m not such a master of words, rhyme, and meter that I can always say exactly what I wanted to say. Sometimes words and ideas shift so much in the process that the result is far from my original intent.

I came across an old Sesame Street video a while ago that captures what the writing process is sometimes like for me. It features Don Music, that head-banging composer. Kermit acts as his one-man critique group. As a kid, I thought Don Music was funny but now, having been through this writing process myself, I find this flat-out hilarious. I relate to Don’s highs and lows — the joy when he realizes he can rhyme ‘pony’ and ‘macaroni;’ the despair when he realizes the resulting story makes absolutely no sense. I laugh as Kermit patiently makes suggestion after suggestion, and talks Don off the cliff (as only a good crit partner can do). And finally, I love how Don takes his ideas and Kermit’s suggestions, and creates something that is wonderful and totally his.


Special good-luck wishes to my critique partners who are participating in the March Madness tournament with me: Penny, Renee, Bill, Liz, and Gayle. Good luck!!

9 thoughts on “March Madness (and How to Write a Poem)

  1. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    Oh, Carrie! Thanks for the laugh! I had forgotten how much I love Don Music, and this episode is hysterical! I think this is my new favorite version of Yankee Doodle 🙂 Good luck in March Madness! Can’t wait to read your poem!

  2. Diana Murray says:

    Oh my gosh! I didn’t know you guys were participating this year! I need to head on over. There were some really awesome poems last year. I know you’ll be a great addition. I don’t remember the Sesame Street skit you’re referring to. I’ll check YouTube. Again, good luck in the competition!

  3. SevenAcreSky says:

    Wishing you (and me) that haphazard luck that breaks out the rhymes during this March Madness season. It would be fun to meet for a match somewhere up the bracket. I get my first round word tonight too. Write on Carrie!

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